400 Level English


Courses at the 400 level afford intensive engagement with advanced topics in English Studies. Offered as seminars, these courses enable students to engage in intimate and sustained conversations about literary and other cultural materials, and to pursue compelling and original avenues of research.

Please consult the University Calendar for a full listing of our ENGL courses, not all of which are offered in a given year. Our department also offers Film Studies and Creative Writing courses.

Fall 2023

ENGL 409 LEC A1: Studies in Literary Periods and Cultural Movements
Between World and Toy: Literature, Philosophy, Writing
E. Harris

Yet were, when playing by ourselves, enchanted
with what alone endures; and we would stand there
in the infinite, blissful space between world and toy,
at a point which, from the earliest beginning,
had been established for a pure event.

Rainer Maria Rilke, “Duino Elegies,” The Fourth Elegy
Trans. Stephen Mitchell

In “The Philosophy of Toys (1853)” poet Charles Baudelaire observes that: “The toy is the child’s earliest initiation into art, or rather it is the first concrete example of art; and when maturity intervenes, the most rarefied example will not satisfy his mind with the same enthusiasm, nor the same fervent conviction.” 

Moreover, in studies of the phenomenon of “play,” Performance Studies Scholar Victor Turner reports that playfulness is “double-edged, ambiguous… a volatile, sometimes dangerously explosive essence which cultural institutions seek to bottle or contain in the vials of games of competition, chance and strength, in modes of simulation such as theatre, and in controlled disorientation”; however, he also insists that play itself is a potent force through which we may critique and subvert personal goals, and re-structure “what our culture states to be reality.” Along these lines of thinking, psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott claims that play originates as a trust-based condition between infant and mother/caretaker, therein founding “the conceptual arena in which human culture originates,” including the most elemental meaning-making operations such as “art and religion.”

In this “Laboratory-style” class, we will immerse ourselves in beautiful works of literature (one novel, short stories, fairy tales in translation, one early work of from within the canon of queer “children’s literature,” one book of poetry, and several individual poems) all of which meaningfully engage the theme of toys, particularly: puppets, dolls, marionettes, and soldiers. We will watch one film (with subtitles), and will study the work of several visual artists, including contemporary Indigenous artists’ re-takes on the Haudenosaunee corn husk doll and the related “Doll with No Face” legend.

We will be exploring these texts/media through critical theoretical frameworks looking-glasses such as: Performance Studies, Queer Theory/Gender Studies, Disability Theory, Postcolonial Theory, feminist theory, psychoanalysis (Freud’s “Uncanny,” “The Double” via Otto Rank, “abjection” via Julia Kristeva, various conceptions of identity-development/Subjectivity Studies, and the Haudenosaunee Imagination via Joe Sheridan and Roronhiakewen Dan Longboat. We may also incorporate study of “traditional philosophers” (philosophers of “play” such as Friedrich Nietzsche and “The Dog,” Diogenes of Sinope).

This course is designed to furnish students with the opportunity to incorporate your own inquiries and current skill-building goals, including giving you the chance to engage with critical theory (regardless of your level of experience), and to intensively refine skills relating to: seminar presentations, close reading, and scholarly elucidation/writing. You will get the chance to try out some graduate school “moves,” at a reduced workload. 

Each student will propose, design and complete a Final Project (to be discussed with the Instructor) – this may include creative writing (depending on the level of Creative Writing coursework the student has completed, to date), or the development of a course-related essay for the purpose of graduate school applications for scholarly and/or creative writing. 

Students are welcome to incorporate research materials from your own disciplines into the development of the final project (again, proposal to be discussed with the Instructor).

Texts - Under Construction - so far, these are on the list, For Certain:

Novel: The Bluest Eye, Toni Morrison
Poetry: Deaf Republic, Ilya Kaminsky (You will not believe how beautiful this book is.)
Children’s Lit: William’s Doll, Charlotte Zolotow
Uncertain Genre: The Street of Crocodiles by Bruno Schulz, Trans. Celina Wieniewska
Short story: The Paper Menagerie, Ken Liu

Possible Texts (shortlist is still being finalized):
Children’s Lit: Winnie-the-Pooh, A. A. Milne
Fairy tale/Children’s Lit: The Adventures of Pinocchio (original, ungentrified version) by Carlo Collodi, Trans. Geoffrey Brock

Films: (supplied by Instructor) undecided; the short-list includes work by The Brothers Quay (The Street of Crocodiles), Jan Švankmajer (Alice), and Krzysztof Kieślowski (The Double Life of Veronique). Viewings will depend on the class presentation schedule.

(All/many additional texts – short stories, essays, toys, dolls, media, etc. will be furnished by the Instructor).

Borders and Borderlands
L. Harrington

This course examines how borders are created in a postcolonial context, in post-conflict societies and in our globalized world. We will work with the framework of critical border studies, an interdisciplinary field that has emerged at the intersection of political geography, literary studies, gender, race and migration studies. Borders can take the form of concrete physical divisions as well as ideological and imaginary, though no less established, boundaries. We will explore the existence of such borders as they are represented in a variety of novels, short stories and poetry in addition to non-fiction, with the aim of interrogating the function and dysfunction of border aesthetics. In addition, we will seek to question how such borders are created, dismantled, reimagined and transgressed, and the role that migration, both forced and voluntary, plays in the eradication of borders and the development of transcultural or transnational communities. Our geographical and historical focus will include the partitions of India, Ireland and Palestine, Apartheid in South Africa, and the US-Mexico border.

Required texts include:
Notes from the Middle World by Breyten Breytenbach (2009)
Sizwe Bansi is Dead by Athol Fugard (1972)
Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera (2009)
The Shadow Lines by Amitav Ghosh (1988)
"The Wall Reader" by Fiona Barr (1979)

Popular Culture and the Invention of Ireland
G. Kelly

Popular Culture and the Invention of Ireland. What is “Ireland”? If we assume it’s a discursive object, created by discourses and practices carried out by people for different reasons we can look at popular culture and the ways it has invented “Ireland” and still does. From your friendly local Irish pub in almost any place in the world (serving chilled Guinness!) to bestselling popular romances written by an expatriate American with an assumed Welsh name, from Bloomsday to the National Leprechaun Museum (book in advance!), from the execution yard at Kilmainham Prison (a favourite with tourists) to “folk villages” scattered across the Emerald Isle, from American uses of “Irish” heritage as a tacit assertion of whiteness (“the Irish in us”) to the martyr murals on house walls in Belfast, and many stranger places in between, popular culture, commercialized “Ireland,” and, yes, even academia-as-popularized-culture has a role. Explore.

JRR Tolkien's Lord of the Rings
T. Wharton

 Few if any modern works of fiction have had a more significant impact on popular culture and reading tastes than The Lord of the Rings. More than sixty years after its original publication, J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy continues to attract legions of devoted readers, and has spawned a global media and merchandising industry, along with entire subcultures dedicated to Tolkien-inspired fan fiction, role-playing, games, art, and tourism. This course offers a close reading of the trilogy, as well as selected excerpts from The Silmarillion and The Hobbit, to consider the novel in the context of Tolkien's larger Legendarium. We will also address ways in which the book’s themes continue to resonate with contemporary issues such as addiction, ethnic conflict, and environmental destruction. 

This is not an introduction to the novel; it is assumed that participants will have read The Lord of the Rings prior to the course.

Primary text:
Tolkien, J.R.R.  The Lord of the Rings. HarperCollins one-volume edition, 2005.

Recommended reading:
J.R.R. Tolkien’s other major published fiction set in Middle-Earth: 
The Hobbit and The Silmarillion
Christopher Tolkien’s The History of Middle-Earth series

Winter 2024

Victorian Projections of the Self
P. Sinnema

This course takes up a few central “statements” about the individual as a construct—of narrative fiction (i.e. the first-person voice/perspective typical of the bildungsroman), of scientific debate (evolutionary, legal, and psychological investigation), of the emergent self-help industry—in order to investigate how the self was conceptualized (written, positioned, dissected) and subjected (to juridical, state, satirical, etc. apparatuses and practices, but also made into a semi-autonomous being, an agential subject) in Victorian Britain. The idea of the self serves only as a potential touchstone for our approach to these disparate texts; students are encouraged to develop and refine their own interpretive interests, and to have Villette read for the start of class. 


Charlotte Brontë, Villette (1853)—Broadview 
Samuel Smiles, Self-Help (1859)—Oxford World’s Classics 
John Stuart Mill, On Liberty (1859)—Broadview 
Charles Dickens, Great Expectations (1861)—Broadview 
Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius (1869)—Cosimo Classics 
Charles Darwin, The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex (1871)—Prometheus

Prose of the Romantic Period: Revolution, Radicalism, and Reaction
L. Robertson

Romanticism in the British context is often approached primarily through poetry. In this course we will instead concentrate on prose written in Britain from the 1790s to the 1820s, both fiction and nonfiction, including a range of genres and modes, such as historical fiction, letters, essays, autobiography, and the gothic. The texts we will study reflect the anxieties and the possibilities of this revolutionary period of European history, engaging with such topics as politics, revolution, social injustice, gender, class, drugs and addiction, violence, rebellion, the natural world, and the nature and purpose of art. Our reading list will include work by Edmund Burke, Mary Wollstonecraft, Hannah More, William Wordsworth, Percy Bysshe Shelley, Matthew Lewis, Walter Scott, Thomas De Quincey, and Mary Shelley.

History of Dystopian Futures
W. DeFehr

Fascism in Theory, Literature, and Everyday Life
K. Ball

Recent commentaries in the popular press have expressed alarm about the spread of far-right authoritarian governments, which appear to be gaining traction across the globe. To develop a critical perspective on the dangers posed by these governments, this weekly seminar will offer an opportunity to compare theoretical and literary treatments of fascism and totalitarianism as historical, political, and traumatic formations. Among the critical and theoretical texts we might consider are essays by Susan Sontag and Gillian Rose on the Western fascination with National Socialism, Ernst Jünger’s “Total Mobilization,” Claude Lefort’s The Political Forms of Modern Society: Bureaucracy, Democracy, Totalitarianism, Robert O. Paxton’s Anatomy of Fascism, Hannah Arendt’s The Origins of Totalitarianism, Max Horkheimer and Theodor W. Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment, Adorno’s “Education after Auschwitz,” Theodor Reich’s Mass Psychology of Fascism, Herbert Marcuse’s One-Dimensional Man, selections from the second volume of Klaus Theweleit’s Male Fantasies depicting fascist subjectivity as a toxic-masculine “symptomatology,” Zygmunt Bauman’s Modernity and the Holocaust, Giorgio Agamben’s Remnants of Auschwitz, Achille Mbembe’s “Necropolitics,” Timothy Snyder’s Bloodlands, and Ann Applebaum’s Twilight of Democracy.  Literary texts by authors such as Franz Kafka, Primo Levi, Sinclair Lewis, George Orwell, Peter Weiss, Manuel Puig, P.D. James, Margaret Atwood, and Colson Whitehead will provide occasions for us to reflect on the ambivalent meanings of collaboration, cruelty, perversion, resistance, and desire in fascist and totalitarian settings. 

From Earth to Sky: Reimagining Sex and Gender
D. Woodman

This course engages contemporary non-binary writers and characters who disrupt hegemonic binaries of sex and gender. We’ll focus on a variety of story-telling forms such as comics, personal essays, novels, a play, poetry, short stories, etc. Collectively, in both characters and the genres, they expose and disrupt the surveillance of individual performances of gender and the disciplinary work of social scripts. These texts highlight how realism, surrealism, drawings, and magical realism open narrative spaces for navigating intersecting sites of discrimination and imagining worlds of possibility.  

Our primary readings are as follows: 

  • G. Willow Wilson’s Marvel comic Ms. Marvel: No Normal (2014); challenges superhero conventions in her story of a Jersey City Muslim teen transforming into Ms. Marvel.
  • Anna-Marie McLemore’s When the Moon was Ours (2016); a Young Adult work of magical realism about trans love. 
  • Kai Cheng Thom’s Fierce Femmes and Notorious Liars: A Dangerous Trans Girl’s Confabulous Memoir (2016); a surreal biomythography written primarily for transgender readers.
  • Lara Rae’s Dragonfly (2020); a play of a trans woman’s inner dialogue  
  • Kacen Callender’s Felix Ever After (2020); a Young Adult novel following a Black trans teen’s self-discovery and search for love.
  • Jericho Brown, The Tradition (2019); winner of the 2020 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry
  • Short selections from works such as: Joshua Whitehead’s collection Making Love with the Land (2022), Moonshot graphic literature volumes (various years), and Carmen Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties (2017). 

We will read a variety of theoretical works on gender and sexuality to support our critical engagements and explorations.  

Race and African Romance Novels
O. Okome

Previous Offerings

2022-23 Fall and Winter Term Courses

Fall 2021

Course Title Instructor Time
ENGL 405 A1  Poetry and/as Research-Creation J. Abel TR 1400-1520
ENGL 465 LEC 800 Women Writing Revolution and Romanticism G. Kelly TR 1100-1220
ENGL 481 A1 Race and African Literature in English O. Okome MWF 1200-1250
ENGL 482 A1 Land Relations: a poetics of treaty C. Stewart TR 0930-1050

Winter 2022

Course Title Instructor Time
ENGL 401 B1 William Blake D. Gay MWF 1100-1150
ENGL 402 X50 Apocalyptic and Post-Apocalyptic Writing in Canada M. Carrière  T 1800-2050
ENGL 409 B1 Victorian Conceptions of the Self P. Sinnema MWF 1300-1350
ENGL 430 B1 Bodies of Knowledge: Research-Creation Beyond Method K. Martin TR 0930-1050
ENGL 467 B1 The Black Dandy: Styling Masculinities in the African Diaspora M. Bucknor TR 1230-1350


Fall 2020

Course Title Instructor Time
ENGL 405 A1 Victorian Poetry and Poetics P. Sinnema MWF 1000-1050
ENGL 407 A1 Studies in Texts and Cultures: Constellating Moby-Dick M. Simpson TR 1100-1220
ENGL 430 A1 Studies in Theory: A Geopoetics of Habitat S. Krotz TR 0930-1050
ENGL 465 A1 Studies in Gender and Sexualities: #metoo and Canadian Literature J. Rak TR 1400-1520
ENGL 483 A1 Studies in Popular Culture: J.R.R. Tolkien's Legendarium T. Wharton MWF 1300-1350

Winter 2021

Course Title Instructor Time
ENGL 407 B1 Studies in Texts and Cultures:  cancelled MWF 1200-1250
ENGL 409 B1 Studies in Literary Periods & Cultural Movements:Aesthetics of Disruption cancelled MWF 1300-1350
ENGL 409 B2 Studies in Literary Periods & Cultural Movements: Modernism and Perpetual Crisis R. Brazeau MWF 1300-1350
ENGL 430 B2 Studies in Theory: The Traumatic Event K. Ball MWF 1100-1150
ENGL 430 B3 Studies in Theory: After Humanism M. Litwack MWF 1200-1250
ENGL 467 B1 Studies in Race and Ethnicity: "Afterlives" of US Slavery cancelled TR 1230-1350
ENGL 467 B2 Reading Early Modern Race and Alterity L. Schechter TR 1230-1350

Spring 2021

Course Title Instructor Time
ENGL 430/695 A1 Time, Narrative, and Historiography 
K. Ball TR 1230-1520


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